Head Coach Pat Shurmur
What does this game mean for your team?
Well, we are two of the 20 teams that aren’t in the postseason. But what you have is two prideful groups of guys that are going to go out there and try to win a football game. That’s what is important. Last year the Steelers got us. We were throwing a “Hail Mary” with a chance to win the game. The Steelers won. Unfortunately, we don’t have an opportunity to play in the playoffs. It would be a nice way to end if we can win the football game. And it’s a division game, two rivals. We were fortunate enough to win the first game. I am sure they have that going. I know our guys here want to finish on a good note.
So it’s not a tough sell for your players?
No. I don’t think so. That may be for some locker rooms but this group of guys has fought hard all year. I’ve asked them one more time to dive into the process of the week to get themselves ready to play a football game. They’ve done that for me for the most part. I am proud of their professionalism. The last two weeks, the Redskins were ahead 14-10 at half and it spiraled out on us. Last week, against the Broncos, middle of the third quarter it was 14-6 and the same thing happened. The last two games, we didn’t do what we had to do to finish the game. I think our guys feel challenged to try to do that this week.
Re: QB situation this week:
I just talked to our local media. Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy both will not practice today. I will give you the heads up on that. Thad Lewis will take the first-team reps, and we signed Josh Johnson. He will run the scout team for us.
Re: Possibly sweeping the Steelers:
Yeah, somebody threw the year around, I think it was 1988. I don’t know. I think what is important is that everything in my mind is on a one-game basis. So we are trying to put our best plan together and our best foot forward to play this Sunday. I ask the players not to think of anything beyond Sunday. At least to this point they have done a good job of sticking with me on those types of messages. That’s kind of what we are thinking.
Are you thinking that way also, because the uncertainty of your status next season?
Yeah, I think that’s been the case for me. Somebody asked me if I was working to save my job. That’s not the case. I am trying to do my job. It goes without saying. We’ve had a lot of change already here. When you change ownership, and we have a new president, who is basically a new, primary decision maker in the building, that’s already a lot of change. I can’t predict what is going to happen moving forward. I just know that I am looking forward to playing this final game.
Could Weeden or McCoy be ready for Sunday?
We are going to have to see. I am not going to rule either one out but as the week goes on, if they don’t practice then I trust that Thad Lewis will go in and do a good job. I was with him in St. Louis. He came from Duke University. He did some good things for us in the preseason. We had an opportunity to pick him up here. I jumped on it. I am glad he is here. I trust him. He has a live arm. He is a good athlete. He is a smart football player. He has been around what we do enough where I think he can go in there and be able to execute.
Is Trent Richardson going to play?
We are going to have to see. I would consider him the same as Weeden and McCoy at this time.
Re: Richardson being so close to 1,000 yards:
Yeah, I am sure that is something that he is thinking about. I think what is important is even though it is the last game, you want to make sure you make your decisions based on a week-to-week basis. If he isn’t ready to go he won’t play. He is a competitor and he is anxious. He is going to fight. At some point, as the week goes on, if I feel like it isn’t going to be the case, then I will make it official.
Is Montario Hardesty the next guy?
Hardesty will be in. We have Brandon Jackson and Chris Ogbonnaya. Those would be the three guys that would go in the event that Trent doesn’t play.
Re: This game being meaningless in terms of playoff implications:
I think any time the Browns and the Steelers are getting together it’s not a meaningless game, when you play your number-one biggest rival. I know people have said there are no playoff implications but this game still means a lot to both of these teams, to both of these cities. These teams are definitely going to be ready to play, no matter what is at stake playoff-wise.
Re: Facing LB
It’s always a great challenge. I enjoy playing against him. He’s one of the greatest outside linebackers in the NFL. He brings a unique challenge in the run and the pass. We’ve had a lot of great battles. It’s always a game that I really have to prepare for and circle on the calendar at the beginning of the year, and I better be ready because he is always going to be ready. He plays the game the way it should be. He plays it full-speed and leaves it all on the field every single time he goes out there.
Could you tell if Harrison was 100% when you faced him last month?
I think right about the time we played him it seemed that he was back to his old self. He’ll probably admit that the first couple games back he was maybe a little bit slow and a little bit rusty. I think by the time we played him he definitely seemed like the same old James Harrison.
What is it like not knowing if your coach is going to be back next season?
I think if you dwell on it, and we focused on it the last week, it can be a big distraction. It’s important that the young guys on our team and the rookies know that no matter what happens after the season, it doesn’t affect what our job is, and our job is to go out and do everything we can to win this football game we have ahead of us. There is going to be plenty of speculation on the side of fans and media members and people that are interested. It doesn’t affect us. We don’t have any say in what happens, so all we can really focus on is things that we have control over, and that’s how we play against the Steelers on Sunday.
Has winning a few games over the past month been a lift for the team?
Definitely. We went on a little three-game winning streak and had some pretty good things going for us. It was definitely a lift because we didn’t start the season out very well. We were in the playoff hunt until the last couple games. It’s a big improvement for us. It’s something that we haven’t been able to be a part of in the last four or five years. I definitely think we’ve been making some good improvement, and hopefully we’ll be able to make more improvement and try to get the Steelers this weekend.
Re: QB Thaddeus Lewis:
I think he’s done a really nice job. He’s the third quarterback, so he doesn’t get a lot of reps during the season. But when he’s had his opportunities in training camp, he’s always shown himself very well. There’s a reason Coach Pat Shurmur brought him from St. Louis to be with him here. He does a good job running the West Coast offense. He’s got a good arm and makes good decisions. He’s a good leader out there. I think he’s got all the tools and all the intangibles. He just doesn’t get a lot of experience. He’s a cool, calm and collected guy, and I don’t think the stage will be too big for him. I think he’ll be able to go out and play good under pressure.